I started writing this post about a month ago and had a fairly polished version ready. The post would have focused on the US funding of Cuban civil society and its repercussions for our understanding of democracy promotion and American reverence of sovereignty. The post also described:
- how the US broke off economic relations with Cuba in 1962
- the history of USA-Cuban relations: colonization, interference and finally virtual radio silence
- and some interesting features such as the Platt Amendment, Bay of Pigs and the slight fluctuation in peripheral sanctions.
There is a timeline showing a good summary of the US-Cuban relations after the Cuban Revolution on the Council on Foreign Relations website, though it has not yet been updated to include current developments.
I am still perplexed by my ending of the proposed post:
These measures are the latest in US tactics aimed at Cuban regime change which leads to the familiar question: Will the US abandon their outdated, Cold War policy and will Cuba and the US have normal relations in our life time? Only time will tell, of course, and there have frequently been signs pointing towards a thaw which then have led to nothing. However, the new generation of Cuban-Americans are more open to the idea of US engagement which may finally give this dinosaur of US foreign policy a push into extinction.
On 17 December 2014, US President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced moves to resume diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.
Now the situation has changed and so have the questions:
What does the re-establishing of diplomatic relations really mean? I speculate that, first, to the US it will mean very little except perhaps it will seem less vengeful and emotional with regard to policy decisions. It could have a large effect on Cuba’s economy in due course but will not change day-to-day life immediately, except perhaps for people in the tourism industry.
Was this decision made because US business was itching to get its hands on Cuban holiday resorts or because the extent of international opposition was finally getting through to The White House? I would imagine both domestic economic interests and international opposition have both played a role in this decision, although the US has shown its disregard of international opinion and laws in the past.
Will the US Congress build on Barrack Obama’s efforts or halt improvements to Cuban-US relations? This could go either way: some conservative forces may try to halt progress and though the new generation of Cuban Americans is more in favour of engagement than the previous, its Lobby still has very conservative aspects.
Since the Cuban Revolution, many US Presidents have been obsessed with Cuba and visiting the island once it had been cured of Castro’s communism. Now, more than sixty years since the revolution, Barrack Obama might finally be the first acting President to visit the island, though Castro’s regime does remain in place. For me, this rapprochement is one of the most memorable moments of Obama’s presidency as it draws to a close.
Sources & Further Reading:
Academic Louis A. Pérez on Cuba as an obsessive compulsive disorder in US politics
CBS News discussing if Congress can block normalization
Democracy Now on lifting the Embargo without Congress
Reuters on Senators blocking normalization and previous US efforts to fund Cuban civil society
Voice of America reporting on Obama’s announcement to normalize ties with Cuba